Indian workplace sabbatical colleagues indian woman

I Desperately Needed A Sabbatical But All I Got Was Nasty Judgement

( words)
*For representational purpose only.

As women, by default, we are wired to be multi-taskers. We are expected to juggle the various roles of a wife, mother and employee, with equal ease. Until sometime back, I was a part of the country’s corporate world and clocked in a regular nine-hour shift. It had been eleven years since I had joined the workforce, and apart from a three-month-long sabbatical due to health reasons, I had been busy climbing up the corporate ladder. However, last year I was facing a personal crisis at home which kept getting worse with time. My job was also stressful, and the constant pressure started taking a toll on my personal life and emotional health. I took a conscious decision to leave my corporate job and take a break, in order to concentrate on other aspects of my life.

I must say that I was lucky enough to be able to take this decision, without giving it a second thought because there are a lot of people out there who probably need a respite like this, and are unable to get it.

What I found hilarious were the varied reactions I received from some of my colleagues when I went to bid farewell to them: “Are you going the family way?” First and foremost, this question is framed wrongly, there is no such concept like the “family way”, and secondly, it’s my individual choice and no one should have a say in it. But of course, any discussion on babies is not considered personal at all, in our society.

In fact, we feel it’s our birthright to ask other people when, how and why they choose to plan their families.

My response in the negative confused these interrogators, but I hurriedly moved on before I could be questioned further. “Are you planning a family?” At times I did not move fast enough and hence had to respond to the follow-up question on whether I was planning a family or not. I did not want to discuss as to why I would need to take a break so I got out of there as fast as I could. “You landed a job with our competition,” said a super zealous colleague to me, he was certain that I had got a job with a competitor and that I was leaving for a better pay. The conversation was a little stilted:

Me – So I have planned to take a break and today is my last day.
Him – Oohh, you got a job with a competitor *nudge, wink*
Me – Er…No, I really am only taking a break.
Him – of course, of course you are *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*
Me – Umm, ok then stay in touch.
Him – Yes sure, and listen, I will mail you my CV *wink, wink*

Another extremely bothered colleague of mine said, “Why do you not want to work? What will you do? What do you mean you are leaving? You can’t just leave! What will you do? You need to have a job before you leave. No no, don’t do this…” I don’t think he heard me mumble a hasty bye before I moved on. He was trying his best to convince me to hang in there. I even received some free career advice, and this was coming from the kind of people who belong to those who love to dispense their precious wisdom to the world. No sooner had I mentioned the word, sabbatical, that I was almost drowning in the assorted stories of their friends and relatives who also made this grave mistake and killed their careers. The fact that their situations and mine, were obviously different, does not strike them even once.

I believe, that it is absolutely essential for every individual to have financial independence and if you love your job then it is only an added plus point.

The workplace is an important part of our lives, where we spend a major part of our day and sometimes we make long and lasting friendships here. It is the place that allows us to achieve our dreams, and make our mark in the world. However, personal health and family are much more important. At times, you have to take a decision where the rest needs to be pushed behind so that these can take due precedence, and this has been the basis of my decision. I believe that, in the end, I did have a colleague and a friend who wished me all the best for the future and said, “I wish I could do the same.”

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